Sunlight Mountain Resort remains hopeful of a good season despite the lack of snowfall

Sunlight Mountain Manager and Chief Snowmaker Mike Baumli is making some adjustments to one of the snow machines that has not been able to operate since last Friday due to warm temperatures.
Chelsea Auto / Independent Post

Warmer-than-average temperatures and a lack of snow could delay Sunlight Mountain Resort’s opening day, but staff are still hopeful for a Dec. 10 opening, a Sunlight spokesperson said.

“We were able to snow some of the colder mornings here,” said Troy Hawks, director of marketing and sales for Sunlight. “We started our snowmaking preparations about two weeks ago by testing the systems. Since then, when we see a small window of opportunity, we turn on the snow cannons. “

The National Weather Service does not have historical snowfall data for the station during the off-season, but NWS meteorologist Megan Stackhouse said that in November, the agency had not recorded any snowfall at Glenwood Springs and less than an inch to Carbondale.

“We’re in a La Nina model, so a lot of the systems coming in are weak and preceded by warmer temperatures than usual,” Stackhouse explained.

On average, Glenwood Springs receives about 4 inches of snow and over an inch of precipitation in November. This year, however, Stackhouse said the area received less than an inch of precipitation and no snow.

Like many ski resorts, Sunlight makes its own snow to complement natural snowfall. But the process requires cold temperatures, which have been rare so far.

“In the last two weeks we’ve probably only seen about six days where we could snow,” said Hawks.

Sunlight Mountain Resort is partially snow capped on a hot 45 degree day on the slopes.
Chelsea Auto / Independent Post

Snowmaking typically occurs from 3 to 9 a.m. when temperatures are below 28 degrees.

“We wish we could turn it on and leave it for a few weeks like we normally do,” Hawks said. “But it’s just not cold enough this year.”

Despite being one of the smallest snowmaking facilities in the state, Sunlight Mountain Manager Mike Baumli was recognized in 2019 as Colorado Ski Country’s Snowmaker of the Year.

Over the past few years, the resort has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in improving its snowmaking operation to improve efficiency and performance. The upgrades included two additional ponds, containing about 1 million gallons each for snow cannons, Hawks said.

So far this season, he said the station has used about 500,000 gallons of water to create the first layers of snow.

“Turning the system on and off right now is a lot less efficient than we would like,” Hawks said. “But we remain hopeful that we can at least open the Tercero elevator on December 10.”

Hawks said the opening day date could change if cold temperatures don’t set in quickly.

Sam Brager skis Sunlight with his 10-year-old son Donavin as often as he can, but said this year could be a challenge.

“At this point in the year, I’ve generally slipped into at least one skin hike, but not this year,” Brager said, explaining that a skin hike is when a skier wraps their skis in “skins”. , allowing them to climb the slope without the need for a chairlift.

Born in Wisconsin, Brager learned to ski at the age of 2.

“Even in a dry year like this, I won’t stop for another hobby,” he said. “You just have to take advantage of the snow in front of you and not look at the forecast too much because it will get you down. “

Mike Baumli, Director of Sunlight Mountain and Chief Snowmaker, descends the slope on a hot 45 degree day on the mountain.
Chelsea Auto / Independent Post

Brager said his gut didn’t believe the warmer temperatures would impact the entire ski season, but that’s at odds with his head, which thinks this season could continue to be dry. Either way, he plans to hit the slopes as often as possible.

“There’s nothing quite like tying two boards to your feet and hitting the mountain,” Brager said.

The good news for the Bragers, Hawks and snow enthusiasts across the valley is that colder weather could be on the way, Stackhouse said.

“There is hope that a stronger system will take hold in the region early next week,” she said. “It’s early and things may still change, but this is the first hope of sufficiently cool temperatures for the snow this season.”

Journalist Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at [email protected].


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